Tehran is a major contributor to the Syrian missile project, including building the new SSM facility near Baniyas.
The Arab upheaval in Syria (the “Arab Spring” events) forced the Syrian regime to transfer some of its strategic infrastructures from the north of the country, a region in which the regime lost some of its power and control. In order to secure those strategic sites and keep them productive and operational, they were relocated to Syria’s central and western areas, where the Syrian regime retained their control, with the support of its allies.
Media reports regarding the latest events in Syria emphasize the involvement of Syrian regime’s allies on the ground, but especially Iran. The last media covered event was the visit in Syria of Brigadier General Amir Hatami, Iran’s Defence and Armed Forces Minister, accompanied with IRGC officials. Hatami declared (26 August 2018) during his first day of the visit, that Iran has the ability to assist Syria with buildup and expending the military capabilities over the country.
Iran’s intentions, as expressed by Hatami’s declaration, is already implicated on the ground. ISI has detected significant visual evidence, suggesting that Iran is building various infrastructures which are related to one of the Syrian regime’s most clandestine projects – the surface-to-surface missiles (SSM) development and production.
Some of those significant visual evidences are from the SSM facility in Wadi Jahannam, near Baniyas, a manufacturing and assembly facility of different SSM types.
The findings reveal some structures in this site which have similar visual characteristics as structures built at SSM facilities in Parchin and Khojir, Iran. Therefore, is it probable that the same elements are responsible for their planning and construction. Two of the findings are shown here:
The SSM facility in Wadi Jahannam appears to be in its final stages of construction. ISI assess that this construction process will be finished during the first months of 2019. This is in accordance to ISI observation and analysis of the construction rate during the last couple of years, and assuming that a similar rate of progress will be maintained.
In this case, ISI assesses that Iran is assisting Syria by reinforcing the SSM abilities for the domestic conflicts. However, since those conflicts are currently smaller and less widespread than before, it is possible that the Iranian efforts are for future use by Hizballah or Iran itself against Israel as well.
Another one of the transferred sites was an SSM production line which was built inside an old Syrian military base in Masyaf, in the northwest of the country.
This base was converted to fit the mentioned current purpose, and according to media reports was attacked on 7 September 2017 by the Israeli Airforce. Furthermore, according to media reports, the site in Masyaf is related to the Iranian SSM activity in Syria.
Both Masyaf and Wadi Jahannam SSM sites are located within the operational range of an S-400 deployment. Therefore, both sites are utilizing or exploiting the defence abilities of Russia, whose forces are deployed and active in the country as well.
During the recent months, several attacks were conducted against different SSM related facilities in Syria. Most of the known strikes targeted infrastructure, but one of them targeted Dr. Aziz Asbar. According to open sources, Aziz was managing the SSR and SSM development project in Syria, as the head of “Sector 4” in the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC), and had a close and long-standing relations with Iran and Hizballah. Because of his important role in SSRC and its special links with Iran, it is probable that Aziz took an active role in constructing and transferring SSM facilities. Thus, it is probable that the recently bombed SSRC and SSM sites, such as ones in Masyaf, had also been designed to serve Iranian goals and develop their SSR and SSM capabilities.
In conclusion, Iran maintains active its presence in Syria (following our previous ISI Intelligence report) despite international public opinion, continuing intimate military relations with Syria while continuing the process of SSM force buildup in the country.
ISI assesses that Iran is involved in the Syrian SSM project both for the domestic Syrian conflict, and to be used in the future by its proxy, Hizballah, and possibly even by itself directly. In addition, it is probable that Iran will continue building additional SSM and other strategic sites with the Syrian regime, utilizing the Russian military presence and their SAM system deployment.